13 Webcams Reviewed

Microsoft LifeCam Show

Software

Microsoft includes its LifeCam software with the purchase of one of these webcams, which allows you to caputre still photos and video clips to use later on.

It's useful, but after a while we found ourselves wishing of the more powerful features available from Microsoft's competitors were there.

Creative, for instance, allows you to configure your webcam to act as a surveillance camera, automatically saving still images if it detects movement in the room.

As for the more playful aspect, Microsoft's selection of characters and special effects is beginning to show its age, especially when compared to some of Logitech's more innovative offerings.

Its diminutive size makes the Microsoft LifeCam Show a natural choice for laptop users. But Microsoft hasn't just made the camera very small--there are new ways of securing it, too.

On the back, a special magnetic dock allows you to swap attachments designed for different surfaces.

Three alternatives are available: there's a clip for the side of laptop screens, a pair of adhesive pads for bigger CRT monitors, and, like Logitech's QuickCam Pro For Notebooks, an 11-inch stand.


Microsoft has clearly put plenty of effort into the inside of this webcam too, which supports 2 Megapixel video and 8 Megapixel still photos.

The fact that it's got autofocus and a noise-reducing microphone means that--on paper at least--this is an excellent webcam.

Video

Based on Microsoft's solid reputation and this impressive specification, we expected top-quality images and we weren't disappointed.

As with the excellent VX-5000 and VX-5500, the Show produces clear, sharp images that give a detailed view of the person they're filming.  Movement is fluid, with no ghosting and no jerkiness.

Despite its improved sensor, the Show still suffers from the traditional problem faced by many webcams: it struggles in darker rooms.

We can only suggest you make sure you have some alternative lighting on hand, such as a table lamp.

Audio

So, all's well with the video on the Show--but what about the sound?

It's generally pretty good, but not quite as perfect as on the VX-5500.

You can make out everything that's said in a conversation, though, and ambient noise doesn't affect the quality of calls.

Microsoft LifeCam Show
PlusesMinuses
  • Small form factor
  • Great image quality
  • Easy to install
  • Short USB cable
  • Struggles in dark rooms
  • Slightly dated software

Microsoft's LifeCam Show is a great laptop webcam. As long as you're under good light, it gives excellent quality video and audio is as rich and clear as on other models from the manufacturer.

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25 comments
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  • vaskodogama
    does really a webcam need to be reviewd? :D
  • Gutbop
    Yeah, I think it's a great review. I just purchased a 25.5" Asus monitor with a built in 2.0MP Bright Cam. My wife got on a video conference with her friends and loved it, so now I'm looking for one for her. By the way, how do these compare with my built-in Web Cam? I can't find any specs other than the 2.0MP.
  • Gutbop
    However... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.
  • vaskodogama
    hey man! I was joking, Great article! ;)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    GutbopHowever... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.

    Hey Gutbop,

    Check the right-hand side of each page for pricing info on the units. We use a search engine to display the price results because the prices for this kind of product are so variable across retailers.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • hellwig
    Its a shame that only a single webcam seemed to come with security software (scheduled snapshots or motion detection). However, with free software such as Yawcam, I don't suppose its too big a deal.

    While I'm sure overall image quality has improved, these new cams don't seem to be any more functional than my 9 year old logitec QuickCam Express (the white golfball webcam). Sure some have face tracking (how well does that work with limited field of view anyway?), but the overall low resolution and general lack of autofocus on most of these cameras just doesn't justify an upgrade. Although the built-in microphones might be nice, sometimes you just need voice-chat, meaning a microphone built into the webcam might be unnecessary or redundant.
  • michaelahess
    I'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.
  • crystalized
    no conclusion pages ? would've been nice to see what is the best webcam available on the market, what webcam has the best price/performance ratio, etc.
  • That Creative bundles home surveillance software hardly matters - the best-of-breed (for non technical users) is HomeCamera, and that's a free download from their site (www.homecamera.com).
  • JonnyDough
    Hey, I live in a college dorm and a few of my roommates don't have a PC. My roommates aren't to enter my room without permission/unless I'm there. I'm looking for webcam software that I can use to view my room but that I can leave on the screen because my one friend can and does use my PC sometimes for writing papers. I want to see who comes in my room, especially on the weekends when I often travel home. It would be cool if it would automatically boot as well from Windows Startup in case of a crash without a splash screen. I'd like it to be able to email me motion detected snapshots or something. Anyone know of any software that will do all of this?

    ~Jonny
  • JonnyDough
    Dangit, we need an edit button. What I wanted to ask is there a program that is COMPLETELY HIDEABLE that will do all that.
  • I agree with crystalized - a summary table or conclusion would have been nice for those not wanting to read every page.
  • Thunderfox
    Reviews? On my TGH? It's less likely than you think.

    I thought all they did was opinion polls.
  • What would have been nice is two identical sample photos taken with each camera. One in proper lighting conditions and one in dark.

    Without them, the review is rather useless for me. I mean, one sample photo included cheesy video effects. How am I to compare the quality of that one to another which has a normal shot. Not to mention the ones which don't have a shot at all.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • joe 90
    oops
  • joe 90
    michaelahessI'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.


    Hi Michael, we use a mixture of desktop and meeting room set-ups using Nefsis Video Conferencing. We find the L'tech Pro900 is great for small rooms (we did use the L'tech Sphere but had too many issues!). For larger rooms you can a Sony evi-d70 with a frame grabber (e.g. Osprey 100 - works well). Unfortunately it seems that there is a big gulf between top end webcams and meeting room based cameras. Anyone got any other suggestions?
  • What about the HP webcam? I have one, and it is great in dark & light. Autofocus is included, along with security software, et al.
    Why miss this one???
    Its also able to do 12MP stills as well... I don't get why this was forgotten in the rush to do Logitech & Microsoft (predominantly) webcams...
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx.
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx
  • In response to the security software for webcams, http://www.peekeez.com offers free remote viewing of your webcam. You can also record all your video remotely on the website, but that service costs $29 per month.
  • You can find all types of fun effects and activities for your webcams at http://www.SillyWebcam.com
  • Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000
    The camera used to be good, but now it's blurry, the colour is poor and it's totally useless to Skype or other video calls. The warranty is gone and now I have a piece of garbage around which I will have to replace. I know for sure that it will not be Microsoft again. I have a Microsoft mouse with the same problem. One year and I had to replace it.